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Kavitha Sathiakumar: A doctor-dancer’s delightful debut

Grace. Confidence. Some picturesque poses. Music. Abhinaya. The arangetram of Kavitha Sathiakumar had it all.

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We owe a lot to our parents; our very existence depends on them. This is true not just at the family level, but in the larger picture too. In the Hindu tradition, the entire creation owes considerably to Shiva the universal father and Parvathy the universal mother. This truth was reflected many times in the Bharatanatyam arangetram of Angeline Kavitha Sathiakumar at the Riverside Theatre, Parramatta on 17 March.

The central item of the performance was Varnam. Clad in a red dress and rich jewellery, Kavitha danced out this item compelling the audience to sway with her. It was not just a dance; it was an experience. This was true for many reasons. First, the sound of Abhogi ragam reverberated in the auditorium, setting the stage perfectly for Kavitha. Vocalist Arjunan Puveendran was majestic in the kriti Anayai Mravenadi Anudinamu with emotion-laden sahitya and lovely swara prasthara, accompanied by Harish Ravindran on Mridangam and the Guru Shashi Bala gave Nattuvangam accompaniment. They were joined by violinist Ganesh Kumar and flautist Venkatesh Sritharan joined.

With this setting in the background, Kavitha Sathiakumar presented an excellent rendition of all the jathis. What was particularly admirable was her abhinaya as a mother. She fed the child, played with it, told it stories, and rocked it in the cradle. The baby would not sleep, and she grew tired of rocking – but succeeded in the end. Then she took the role of the father. The child begged him for a thousand things – he is after all the provider and supporter. Simple episodes from parenting, these depictions resonated with all, and brought a smile to the face.

Varnam is the climax in an arangetram. The training and the skills are called into question in this demanding item. It combines the abstract dance (nritya) with the concrete (abhinaya). Kavitha ably demonstrated that she has acquired all the rudiments of Bharatanatyam – the mudras and the adavus, her movements wonderfully artistic.

We saw many picturesque poses in the Varnam and other items of the recital. Kavitha said later, “It is more than just movement of the legs, hands, body and eyes: it combines expression, ability to tell stories and has an element of grace that is incomparable.”

True, Kavitha, you exhibited these admirably.

The performance started with a grand rendition of Tavamaria Tarama by the vocalist Arjunan. I should mention that the musical interludes – including Alai Payude (in Raga Kanada) and Kaliyuga Varadan (Brindavana Saranga) – were themselves pleasing.

Kavitha Sathiakumar commenced her recital gracefully, fully determined that she would dance well, and her confidence was apparent all through the performance.

In Jathiswaram, her replies in dance shone through to the abstract music (raga Bilahari) and nattuvangam. I sat wondering, how many poses and movements is Kavitha producing to the abstract notes – Sa Ni Tha Pa Tha Pa Ma Ga Ri Sa!

In the abhinaya-prominent Shabdam, Kavitha brought to life a Krishna before us all. As she finished with her enactment of the Vastrapaharana, there were very few dry eyes in the
audience.

Adu Pambe, (Snake Dance) was enjoyed by all watching, especially Chakrasana or the wheel pose. This item saw an atmosphere-enhancing backdrop of a snake in the desert, while the item Padam had that of a temple.

Kavitha Sathiakumar

Keerthanam was a medley of Annamacharya compositions. Thillana in Raga Ravathi brought out several impressive poses of Ganesha, Kathyayani, Lakshmi and Vishnu.

The role of Sashi Bala as Guru was evident throughout. Sashi is the artistic director of Natyadarshan School of Indian Classical Dance in Sydney which was established 35 years ago and has produced many students. She has performed Bharathanatyam, Kathak, Mohiniattam and Thalinritya in India and Australia.

Sashi Bala welcomed Kavitha as a dance student at the tender age of five, and has seen her through her journey in medical school, having just qualified as a doctor. She has loved dance throughout: even a two-year relocation to Central Coast did not deter her from driving to Sydney for her weekly dance lessons.

Kavitha Sathiakumar with her guru Sashi Bala
Kavitha Sathiakumar with her guru Sashi Bala and the illustrious crew that made up the orchestra

“Apart from being great exercise, and therefore a kind of self-care for me, Bharatanatyam has been a way to escape and forget anything that causes me stress,” Kavitha revealed.

Reflecting on her arangetram, Kavitha said, “The mental and physical efforts that it took were unmatched, but in hindsight it was an experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life.”

We look forward to seeing you on the stage again, Kavitha Sathiakumar.

READ ALSO: Dancer Nikitha Sesha: A Bharatanatyam tribute to Shiva

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